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Ellen Smith, assistant vice president, represents and informs the Univesity on issues such as financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, research funds and tax policies as they pertain to higher education.

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 VOL. 23, NO. 15FEBRUARY 20, 1998 


Legislators May Reinstate Tax-Free Education Benefits


Last week, the Senate Finance Committee included an extension of Section 127, tax-free employee educational assistance, in a bill to allow withdrawals from IRAs for elementary and secondary education. The graduate benefit would apply to courses taken from Jan. 1, 1999, through Dec. 31, 2002.

  The bill includes other provisions, such as expanded IRA contributions for education and elimination of taxation of tuition for National Health Service Corps recipients. In its current form, the bill as a whole is expected to be vetoed by the President, but the President has also committed to expanding graduate benefits under Section 127, so educational association government relations staff believe that we may be able to see prospective reinstatement of the benefits.

  Before adjourning for their Washington Birthday district work period, Congress was very active. They will return the week of Feb. 23. An attempt to prohibit human cloning was defeated procedurally in the Senate, although further evaluation of a technique called “somatic cell nuclear transfer technique” will be studied through hearings.

  In the House of Representatives, Republican members of the Education and Workforce Committee held a news conference to discuss the Jan. 21 release of the Cost Commission report. Committee leaders sent letters to the Secretary of Education with specific suggestions for reducing and restraining college tuition increases.

  In addition, the Administration has reportedly released its version of higher education reauthorization.

  President Clinton announced last week that he will appoint Neal Lane as his science advisor and Mary Colwell will be nominated as director of the National Science Foundation.

  Congressman Vern Ehlers’ (R.–Mi.) Science Policy Study continues.

  For additional information, contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of federal relations, ess9@columbia.edu.